Mount Whitney Overnight Hike

Steve, Brad and I had the pleasure summiting Mt. Whitney (14,505’) on an overnight backpacking trip, braving a night of rain and 22 round-trip miles to do so. The experience was intense, and the hike was a butt-kicker. 6,000’ of elevation gain in just over 11 miles makes the trek hard for even the most athletic folks. The views along the hike were great and the Perseids would have been spectacular had clouds not blanketed the sky at the peak of the meteor showers. Plus there was tons of geoscience to be seen, including the 83 Ma Whitney Granodiorite, air pollution in the Central Valley, thunderstorm formations and the effects of human waste on the lakes and streams in the area. Have fun looking at our trip.
  • Google Earth view of the Whitney Trail.
  • Steve weighs in at 34lbs for the overnighter.  He got to carry the bear canister.
  • Brad, the ultralight pro weighed-in at an amazing 19lbs!
  • My pack weighed the most at 41lbs.  Tripod and camera gear, plus the entire tent made me a bit heavy.
  • The trek begins at Whitney Portal.
  • Thank goodness for the clouds.  The hike up would have otherwise been miserable.   This is about one mile into the hike.
  • A decent view of the steep canyon up to Bighorn Meadow.  Lone Pine Creek is falling in the unfocused distance.
  • Scarlet Monkeyflower was one of the few wildflowers that remained on the trailside.
  • Brad makes short work of the first small creek crossing.
  • Unnamed peak with great light.
  • The view east from just over a mile up the trail.  Alabama Hills are in the center, Lone Pine is the green oasis just beyond the hills.
  • Brad crosses the North Fork Lone Pine Creek.  Apparently the mountaineers route to the summit follows this stream.
  • Steve laughs in the face of the upcoming ascent.
  • N. Fork Lone Pine Creek.
  • Steve points out the obvious.
  • The firstseveral miles of the trail do not require a special permit.  Lots of families were coming off the mountain after visiting Lone Pine Lake.
  • Nearing the junction with Lone Pine Lake.
  • Nearing the junction with Lone Pine Lake.
  • Sturdy bridge construction made crossing Lone Pine Creek a snap.
  • Brad made it look easy.
  • Steve made it across Lone Pine Creek easily.
  • The sandy entrance into the "Whitney Zone".  Permitted hikers only beyond this point.
  • The trail was pretty much steep and rocky the remainder of the trip.
  • Looking down valley toward Lone Pine Lake.
  • Brad's iPhone did a bang-up job taking photos.
  • After eating lunch and waiting out a brief shower, Steve ambles past Bighorn Meadow.
  • Big Horn Meadow.
  • There were quite a few little brook trout in the stream.
  • Big Horn Meadow and our first view of the crest that we'd have to traverse the next day.
  • Waterfall near Outpost Camp.  This is about 3 miles into the hike.
  • Looking down canyon to the east over Big Horn Meadow.  Outpost Camp is under the trees.
  • Outpost Camp beneath the trees.
  • Yet another waterfall behind Outpost Camp.
  • Crossing Mirror Lake's outlet.
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  • Mirror Lake Outlet.
  • Although the creek was low and slow, it still added a nice auditory ambiance.  Note the algae in the stream.  That's caused by nutrients from human waste.  Yum.
  • Brad pauses to smile and refuel.
  • Steve stashes his Powerade with Thor Peak in the background.
  • Our first evidence of glaciation!  Note the smooth saddle in the middle of the photo.
  • Mirror Lake.  No camping here.  But the fishing looked to be okay.
  • By this point in the trail we had already climbed a whopping 2800' (give or take) in 3+ miles.  Luckily the views were great.
  • Canyon above Mirror Lake.
  • Don't know where the elevation.  Maybe they left it off because they weren't sure at the time.
  • Geodetic benchmark in context.
  • Upwards we press.
  • Mirror Lake.
  • Trailside Meadow - 5.5 miles into the trek.
  • The clouds were rolling-in, and we were getting cool, but we kept rolling-on to camp which was just beyond the cascade.
  • As you can see, tons of hikers take advantage of this spot to rest and eat.
  • Brad nears camp for the day.
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  • Consultation Lake.  Our awesome and relatively private camp for the day.
  • Consultation Lake has several AWESOME campsites that our protected by the wind and close to water.  Best of all, we didn't have to share the lake with ANYONE!!
  • Steve walks back to camp.
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  • Our camp at Consultation Lake.  Brad's tent was exactly 100' from the water.
  • The sun came out after camp was set-up.  It was great to get warm and explore.
  • The outlet of Consultation Lake.
  • Consultation Lake outlet.
  • Grass patch growing on Consultation Lake's outlet.
  • Consultation Lake outlet.
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  • Steve soaks-up the sun.
  • Brad thought Steve had a good idea.
  • Brad on the shores of Consultation Lake outlet.
  • Steve again.  Still soaking-in the warmth.
  • Consultation Lake outlet.
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  • Consultation Lake
  • Peaks behind Consultation Lake.
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  • consulation outlet hdr
  • 7:30pm... Building clouds turn a crazy peach color as a storm seems imminent.
  • Looking to the east, we noticed the Inyo Mountains had vanished under heavy rainshafts.
  • After much observation, we realized the storm was indeed coming and that our hopes of seeing the Perseids meteor shower from 12,000' was going to be dashed. At least there was no lightning or thunder.
  • A 4am alarm got us out of bed and on the trail by 5am.  Many folks had already started their ascent of the fabled 99 switchbacks.
  • Mt Whitney is the far right peak with what looks like a star on top of it.  The star is actually a hiker's headlamp.
  • Trailcamp activity was hopping just before sunrise.
  • Early morning photography at altitude is tough.
  • Steve rounds one of the 99 switchbacks.
  • My focus was off, but you get the idea.
  • Steve heads up a switchback.
  • The famous trail cables.
  • The switchbacks reminded me of those old marble roller coasters I always wanted (but never got) when I was a kid.
  • One of the perks of getting up at 4am is that you're already over 1000' higher than camp for sunrise.  Consultation Lake is on the right.
  • Shazam!
  • Oh, please warm us up.
  • Sierras in foreground, Inyos next and then the Panamint Range in Death Valley.
  • Lovely, lovely colors and clouds.
  • Steve.
  • Brad felt a little better at this point in the hike.  Mt Muir is center peak.
  • Steve soaks-in the sun.
  • Ahhhhh
  • Trail Crest is almost within reach!
  • Mt Muir soaks-in the sun.
  • There was life at 13,000'!
  • Brad saunters along.
  • Brad saunters along.
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  • The chick in the blue lends a sense of scale to Trail Crest.
  • Find the chick in the blue to understand the scale of these mountains.
  • Looking west after topping-out over trailcrest.  Hitchcock Lakes.
  • Mt Hitchcock glows in the foreground while Sequoia Nat'l Park warms-up too.
  • Entering Sequoia Nat'l Park.
  • Guitar Lake in background.  The trail descends for a quarter mile or so after topping-out at trailcrest in order to join the John Muir Trail.
  • Hitchcock Lakes and Steve.
  • Steve and Brad press on.
  • What cool light.
  • Jointing in the 83 Ma Whitney Granodiorite.
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  • Jointing, exfoliation and frost-wedging play a large part in creating the cracked rock seen here.
  • I've got a wedgie.
  • The view out the first "Window".  Looking several thousand feet below isn't as bad as it sounds.
  • Scattered light through the windows set the rocks in the foreground aglow.
  • One thing most Whitney sites fail to mention is that these windows smell like piss.  Why? I guess they offer a quick amount of privacy on an otherwise exposed trail.
  • Brad and a window.
  • Since my fill flash couldn't reach Steve, I had to get him a little lightened with Photoshop.
  • Um, yeah... Steve has a lot of nerve.
  • 15' fall to the left, or 200' fall to the right? Be careful, man.
  • Brad liked Steve's idea too.
  • Not a bad way to enjoy the view.
  • Look at all the aretes (glacially-carved ridges) in the background.
  • Almost there!
  • Looking west.  Note the smoke and smog near center of photo.
  • We made it!
  • Smithsonian Shelter... Last resort lighting refuge.
  • The non-conductive wood floors of the Smithsonian Safety Hut.
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  • At the summit!  Time to eat and gain our bearings.
  • There were several benchmarks on the summit.
  • Looking east toward the Alabama Hills and Lone Pine.
  • Brad.
  • Steve.
  • Umm... me?  I modified the pic for my classroom door.
  • If only I had a hang glider.
  • This would be one heck of a triple jump.
  • Thanks, Steve.
  • The summit got crowded QUICKLY.
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  • Too many people.
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  • Brad signs the register.
  • Steve signs the register.
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  • The three amigos.  Why do I feel so small?
  • Perspective from the Summit.
  • We headed down after only 8 minutes on the summit.  Couldn't handle the hippies smoking pot.  14,505' and they needed a drug to get higher?
  • Flowers overlooking Hitchcock Lakes.
  • Nice light and reflections.  Less than an hour after this photo was taken, thunderstorms enveloped the area.
  • Upper Hitchcock Lake reflecting Hitchcock Peak.
  • Oooooh...
  • And back down the switchbacks we went.
  • Find the Pika
  • Consultation Lakein center & switchbacks.
  • Play the "How many hikers are in this photo?" game.   Then play the "are the hikers going uphill or downhill?" game.  With that, we encountered steady rain on the hike out which is why I sealed my camera in my backpack and took no more photos.  WE MADE IT!